Like it or not, but the draft is basically a glorified crapshoot. That might be a blunt way to put it, but to even the most basic NFL fans who happen to scan past drafts, it’s apparent immediately.
The famous picks (both good and bad) still resonate in the minds of fans. Tom Brady in the sixth. Joe Montana in round three. Even Ryan Leaf (though for dubious reasons).
But it’s my opinion that championship teams aren’t built through the draft by finding these occasional superstars. Instead, teams that can consistently find the greatest number of competent (though not Hall of Fame) caliber players do the most to position themselves for success.
That’s why Bill Walsh, one of the greatest draft wizards of all time, declared the 1986 draft his favorite as 49ers coach.
1986 was not the draft where Walsh snagged Jerry Rice or Joe Montana.
But it was the year that San Francisco did more in one draft to improve their team than any other. In came players like Charles Haley, Tom Rathman, John Taylor, Don Griffin, Tim McKyer, Steve Wallace and Kevin Fagan. All became starters for multiple championships in one of the greatest runs in NFL history.
Effectively, the 49ers rebuilt themselves between their 1984 and 1988 titles, and the 1986 draft was the keystone of that transition.
It’s for this reason that I’ve always found the classic coverage of the draft very curious. For lack of a better term, it’s elitist. Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay are great at telling us what they think about the guys they believe will be picked in the top 15-30, but after that there seems to be a significant drop off in reporting.
So without further ado, a look at some of the potential later round players, all aspiring to become the next Tom Brady (or, failing that, Tom Rathman).
I might not be right with what round each player will be picked in, but it’ll at least get you aware of potentially season-making sleepers waiting in the depths of the 2011 draft.